The journalist, John Flint, is a Walkley Award winning investigative journalist, and the Assistant Editor of the Sunday Times. He interviewed local rescue groups for the piece about PetRescue's predatory fundraising behaviour;
Since (PetRescue) began pushing hard for public donations, rescue groups complain their own funding has shrunk. And as volunteers, they can’t compete with PetRescue’s slick and professional marketing campaigns.
Most pointedly, they claim many people donate to PetRescue mistakenly thinking they’re donating to the rescue groups, which shoulder the financial burden of feeding, sheltering, de-sexing animals as well as meeting all vet bills.
PetRescue doesn’t house any animals. Its principal function is operating a website which is a free platform for rescue groups all around the country to advertise their animals, many of which have been saved from pounds, abandoned or are simply unwanted.
Adding to the angst of these groups, some are bitter that images of animals they’ve saved have been used by PetRescue to solicit donations, of which they don’t get a cent. And there are claims that fundraising campaigns may have been misleading.
Disenchantment has prompted several groups to sever ties with PetRescue.
Saving Perth Animals From Euthanasia which operates one the biggest networks of animal foster carers in WA, say PetRescue is undoing its once great reputation.
“PetRescue started off as a really great service,” said Saving Perth Animals From Euthanasia president Sue Campbell, who claims there’s now a lot of confusion among people about where donations were going.
I was interviewed for the article also;
(Shel Williamson) said PetRescue was directly competing with rescue groups for public donations.
There’s lots of money in donations — it’s dogs and cats which people love, she said.
“Rescue groups are simply outgunned. Most are too busy saving pets (to fundraise). But the rescue groups need those donations.
“It costs them about $1000 per rescued animal.
(PetRescue are) using pics of animals that they haven’t met that they have never given any money to, to fundraise ... I can’t imagine any other charity being allowed to do that.
(Vickie Davy) denied PetRescue had been misleading in any way or that it had blurred the lines between them and the 995 groups who use the website.“PetRescue has achieved amazing things in the past three years and we will continue to grow and expand our programs and services until we reach our goal of every pet safe, respected and loved.
“In the three years since Shel left we have transformed our organisation so that as well as continuing to provide all our digital services to rescue members free of charge we have been able to create more amazing programs that have provided additional support to our members, achieving more than $10 million of free products and services for our members.
“It’s frustrating that even after three years Shel still spends her time and energy attacking the work we do. I know I have an amazing team who are creating genuine long-term change in the animal welfare industry.”
According to financial reports lodged with Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, $834,800 of PetRescue’s $1.4 million revenue went on employee benefits and expenses in 2017-18.
Ms Davy declined to say how much she and Mr Bishop paid themselves as directors, but said it was based on Pro Bono Australia’s Salary Survey benchmarking report.
Nine Lives Cat Rescue in Perth was one of the first to sign up to use PetRescue’s online platform to advertise its cats.
“It was great (at the start),” said the group’s Nat Mason. “Now when somebody replies to your ad as interested (in a cat), PetRescue gets that person’s details. They then send them newsletters. I have no problem with that. But what they do is contact them constantly for donations, which I found misleading when I got them. People might think they’re donating to the rescue group — they’re not.
“We used to have people contacting us saying, ‘We’ve made a donation, we’d like a tax receipt’. We’d go through our bank records and couldn’t find a record of the donations and they’d say, ‘We did it through PetRescue’, and we’d tell them, ‘You donated to PetRescue, you didn’t donate to us’.”
Aimee Dent, general manager of Guardian Angel Animal Rescue in Adelaide, was annoyed when PetRescue used a dog saved by her team as the star of a fundraising push.
“We rescued Luna from a remote community,” she explained. “We had to organise the travel for her to come down from a community 12 hours away. In that trip we saved four dogs and 12 puppies.
“Luna was pregnant with 11 puppies, so we had to help her whelp her pups and get them all vet checked. One needed extra vet attention. We had to spend a lot of money on food. There’s also hours upon hours raising, socialising and training them before they were ready for their new homes.
“The thing that annoyed me was that (PetRescue) didn’t feel the need to approach us and basically went directly to the family (that adopted her) and used her story to bring themselves donations.
“They don’t do any of the hard yards ... We got nothing at all.”
Katrina Beard, of Such Agreeable Friends Animal Rescue in Victoria, left PetRescue after being an active rescuer for almost a decade. She was concerned the charity was attracting donations away from grassroots organisations.
“They solicit donations very heavily,’’ she said. “If you go to the website to look for an animal the first thing that comes up is their fundraising banners. People would be better off finding out who their local rescue groups are and slinging them some money.
“Nearly all of the rescue groups are run by unpaid volunteers. They often have another job on the side to fund the rescue. I had a full-time job and I spent nearly all of my money on my rescue. .. (plus) fundraising is a whole different skill set.”
Ms Williamson said the Desexmas campaign gave an impression the money would go to de-sexing pets. “No pets got desexed,” she claimed.
Ms Davy denied anyone was misled. She couldn’t reveal how many rescue groups were using the new donation platform. Ms Williamson believes it’s fewer than 20.